Is there such a thing as too much backpacking? Do you ever get tired of stoned or suicidal bus drivers, seedy hotels and dorms and white pasty food with no name and no taste?

Once in a while, travel fatigue sets in, and you may need a break. After all, you have the money - you've been working along the way or watching your budget, so going a 'little' wild shouldn't break the bank.

I know that when I'm on the road, I enjoy a few travel treats along the way. You may too, if you need a change of pace.


Women on the Road News: Contents for Issue #9

  • Travel Treats: How to Pamper Yourself on the Road
  • What's New on the website
  • Travel News: 27 new World Heritage sites; Kuwait May Tighten Women's Travel; Bhutan Raises Entry Prices
  • Book Recommendations
  • Cause of the Month: Ngobe women of Panama


Travel Treats: How to Pamper Yourself on the Road

1. Have a meal in a nice restaurant.
A really nice restaurant, with silverware and napkins. After three months in rural East Africa, I arrived in Kenya and decided to do just that with some newfound friends. As we attacked our spaghetti, they looked at me strangely. I was stuffing myself with my hands! I'd completely forgotten about knives and forks. That's when I knew I had to 'upgrade' a little more often. Since then, on long journeys, I take a 'travel treat' once a month.

2. Go to the beauty salon.
I only indulge in this rarely, and my best memories are from Burma (unless you have chosen not to travel to Burma). If you do go, the hair washing part lasts about an hour. Then comes your face, your neck and your shoulders. Bliss if you've been up-country for a while.

3. Have a hot bath with bubbles.
OK, this one's a challenge. First, most backpacker places don't have baths - but some do. And since you're traveling with a universal plug (right?), you'll be able to keep the water in. No bubble bath? No problem - use salt instead. It's much easier to find!

4. Brunch in a luxury hotel.
I look forward to this the most. For days beforehand, all I can think of are pancakes and maple syrup. So every fourth Sunday or so (after that bubble bath and beauty salon), you'll find me at the brunch buffet of the nearest luxury hotel.

5. Don't take a matatu - fly!
Just once in a while, fly instead of driving. You can't really compare a 24-hour cross-country trip on a rickety bus with a one-hour flight. It's fun to meet people but if you've been on the road a long time you're bound to get testy next time someone drops a crate of chickens on your lap. I don't make a habit of it but when I'm really tired of travel - and it does happen - there's nothing like a bit of rapid transport to re-energize me.

6. Stay at someone's house (who has more money than you).
Backpacker inns are great, and dorms are wonderful ways of getting to know other travelers. But you'll get to know more local people if you stay in their homes. Using couchsurfing or similar services can be an exciting way of understanding a place, in 'relative' luxury.


What's New on the Website

How to Learn a Language
Or at least part of one. You can learn enough to get by if you follow these simple tips.

Yacht Jobs if you're Seaworthy
If you love the sea, yacht jobs are not only great travel opportunities but will help you save money as well.

You Absolutely Can Travel with Kids
Travel with kids shouldn't stop you from seeing the world - even if you're a single mom, says Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco, author of the latest Rough Guide to traveling with kids.


Travel News for Backpacking Women

UNESCO Announces 27 New World Heritage Sites
If you're a culture vulture, UNESCO has made it even easier for you by awarding it's vaunted label to 19 new cultural sites and eight natural ones. Here are my own favorites on that list.

Cultural Sites
- Historic Centre of Camag├╝ey (Cuba)
- Fortifications of Vauban (France)
- The Mijikenda Kaya Forests (Kenya) - I visited these as a foreign correspondent and wrote a story about them a few years ago

Natural Sites
- Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)
- Monarch Butterfly biosphere Reserve (Mexico)

You'll find the full list on the World Heritage site.

Kuwait: Law May Tighten Women's Travel

Kuwait may get stricter with women travelers. A new law apparently in the works would enforce Islamic dress for women and impose restrictions that would forbid them to travel without a male relative, as is already the case in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The law would create a special committee to examine whether women need to travel at all.

The law isn't just aimed at women, but would also restrict media freedoms and enforce gender segregation in educational institutions.

This is not what I would call progress.

Bhutan Raises Entry Prices

Most of us can't travel to Bhutan anyway - it's already too expensive and it requires being part of a tour. As of next year, the US$ 200 daily fee will increase to US$ 250 during high season so only the most keen or wealthy will have add country to her map.


Book Recommendations

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak. The perfect read if you're sitting in a pastry shop overlooking the Bosphorous - or if that's where you'd like to be.

Blood River by Tim Butcher. He retraces Stanley's steps down the Congo River. It's amazing he made it!

Get a Cruise Ship Job by Neil Maxwell-Keys. The perfect e-book to get started on the job hunt from someone who has done it - and more important, who has managed his own cruise ship recruitment agency.

Guide Your Own Safari by Bruce Whittaker. A special $10 discount for subscribers of Women on the Road News (to claim your discount, just enter 400 when asked for the code). An outstanding do-it-yourself resource if you want a safari in Southern Africa but don't like the crowds.


Cause of the Month: Women's Health and Empowerment Center, Cerro Limon, Panama

The Ngobe indigenous women in Panama face many challenges arising from poverty, lack of health care, and sexism. To help address these two small buildings are being built that will serve as a women's health and economic empowerment center.

The women who live near the mountain community of Cerro Limon have to travel far and face a dangerous route to get to a clinic. Even if they could get there, they couldn't afford the treatment.

The next best thing is the care provided by female traditional healers, who serve as midwives and know about medicinal plants. One of the most dangerous moments of women's lives is childbirth. Complications and death from childbirth are common. This remote region desperately needs a clean, private place where traditional healers can treat patients and where women can go to get help for childbirth.

One building would provide a health service, while the other would be owned cooperatively by five local women's groups and allow women to get together to work, mostly to sew on foot-pedaled sewing machines. Women will make dresses to first clothe themselves and sell any surplus.

I've visited these women myself, and the project was put together by my friend Gigi, who is spending the next few years volunteering around the world. A small donation would make all the difference to these destitute women. Read more about the project and make a donation by visiting: Donate here!


Next Month? Get a job at a European ski resort!

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it may be hard to think of ski slopes when it's hot outside and you're lying on the beach... but if you plan on spending your winter months in the Alps, you'd better start looking now. The best spots fill up fast!


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Happy travels! Leyla